Wichita States cross country teams are unbeaten in what amounts to an exhibition season. Running against mostly non-NCAA Division I schools, the Shockers won the JK Gold Classic on Sept. 1 and the Richard Clark Invitational last weekend in Springfield, Mo.
While they did defeat teams such as Kansas State, Missouri State and UMKC in those meets, the stakes rise dramatically the rest of the fall. After taking this weekend off, the Shockers run at the Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla. on Saturday and the Pre-Nationals Meet in Louisville, Ky. on Oct. 13. The Missouri Valley Conference championships are Oct. 27 in Normal, Ill.
These are great meets to practice whats coming, WSU cross country coach Kirk Hunter said. The competition level hasnt been as high as whats coming, and we knew that. Its always good to get into your season and work on some things that can get your ready for those higher-level meets.
Hunter is particularly encouraged by the development of his mens team. The Shockers grabbed six of the top eight spots in the Missouri State meet and four of the top 10 in the JK Gold Classic. Hunter wants his team to learn to run as a pack and the Shockers put individual times behind team goals the first two weekends.
We worked a great deal on running as a team, he said. The better, tighter pack we have up toward the front, the better well do as a team.
That strategy requires sacrifice by WSUs top runners. Senior Marcos Bailon finished second (25 minutes, 25 seconds in the 8-kilometer) in Missouri, seven seconds behind UMKCs Cosmas Ayabei. Bailon didnt push his pace until late in the race so he could run with his teammates. His job is to encourage the slower runners and keep the pack running hard. Hunter told his runners he wanted to hear plenty of talking during the race.
Its team chemistry, Bailon said. Throughout the race well be talking to each other, calling each others name out.
The pack mentality will be most important at the MVC meet. In between, there are opportunities for Bailon to run for himself. The Shockers will face larger fields and more talented in Stillwater and Louisville and it will be more difficult for the runners to stick together.
That was the perfect time to work on everybody staying together, Bailon said.
WSUs women are in slightly different situation. Hunter wants to his pack of runners to get closer to senior All-American Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton (18:01 in the 5-kilometer run). She won the Clark Invitational by 25 seconds on a rainy, muddy day. WSUs Kaitlyn McLeod finished second with Samantha Shukla and Elida Bailon (Marcos wife) in the top 10.
Take the easy way Fridays 15-kill performance by WSU freshman outside hitter Ashlyn Driskill made her look old.
In a good way.
Old as in mature. Old as in willing to tip instead of swinging into a block in order to keep the play alive. Driskill, playing against an overmatched Evansville team in a sweep, produced her best performance of a young career.
I saw her take some real grown-up, old-person swings, volleyball coach Chris Lamb said. If something wasnt right, she just chucked it over the net. She rolled it in and let her defense try to win the rally. Its hard to pull back the reins when shes out there scoring points. But theres a time and a place to pull it back a little bit and keep the rally going when the sets not there or the approach isnt there.
Driskill is used to scoring big, which means aggressively swinging for kills. She said ball-control drills during individual sessions are helping her direct the ball. She also recognizes smarter decisions helped her avoid attack errors.
It was really hard, she said. I hate tipping. I always want to swing.
Head to head WSUs womens golf team finished 10th in its first tournament, the Chip-N Club Invitational in Lincoln, Neb. Coach Tom McCurdy wasnt pleased, but at least the Shockers can try to reverse some of that damage this week.
The Shockers play in the Marilynn Smith Sunflower Invitational on Monday and Tuesday in Lawrence. They will face several of the same teams that finished ahead of them in Nebraska Kansas State, Missouri State and Nebraska. Kansas and Illinois State are also in the field, all teams the Shockers need head-to-head wins over to build a power ranking.
The NCAA selection committee does it just like basketball, McCurday said. All the teams that were in the same pool with are going to be bubble teams. You have to have winning percentages against those teams, for sure, to get the nod.
McCurdy is patching together his top five due to injury and illness. Senior Hollie Weatherburn, whom McCurdy calls his most consistent golfer, is sidelined with anemia. Her return is uncertain.
He hopes the return of senior Natalie Samb, who didnt qualify for the first tournament, provides a boost.
She qualified much better, McCurdy said. She just had some swing things she needed to iron out.
Notes The Shocker Baseball Fall Golf Classic is Oct. 12 at Braeburn Golf Course with morning and afternoon tee times. For information, call 316-978-3636. WSUs softball team plays its first fall scrimmage at 2 p.m. Saturday against Pittsburg State at Wilkins Stadium. It plays Johnson County Community College at 6.